Millennials — Characteristics, Values and Branding for the Gen Y
Since I have done a lot of projects that were targeted at Millennials (or Generation Y), I piled up a bunch of facts about them that might help you with your research. Plus I’m one of “them” so I should know best — right? Well, interviews with your real users or customers are obviously far more valuable than some comprehensive facts about a demographic group. Nevertheless these insights can help you better understand how the Generation Y thinks, how they behave, what they care about, and ultimately what affects their judgement of your brand or product. After all you want to amaze one of the largest demographic groups.¹ So let’s see how!
Boring Stuff First
Before I get to the characteristics of Millennials, I find it important to know about the historical events and socio-economic developments that they were influenced by. Because most of their traits can be deduced from these influences.
There are many different definitions of the demographic group’s birth cohort, yet most of them include all people born between around 1980 and 2000. Therefore the Generation Y comes after the Gen X and before the Gen Z. Today they are about 20 to 40 years old.² But thats probably something you already knew, what about the things you might not be aware of?
Millennials are used to a continuous economic growth³ while they also witnessed the demographic change as well as the structural change. As digital natives, the globalisation and internet offered them a multitude of choices right from the start. Last their upbringing was anti-authoritarian.²
Millennials are impatient. They strive for the instant satisfaction of their needs, most often in the form of immediate positive benefits.⁴
Gen Yers are easily distractible and skittish. Their attention span is quite low.⁴
In favor of a happy life the Generation Y is constantly on the search of meaning. They want to merge their job with their leisure and most of all fulfill themselves.⁴
Social Responsibility and Appreciation
The Generation Y has a remarkable social responsibility and appreciation. They have trust in people and social connections. Besides Gen Yers seek social recognition and have a strong need to talk.⁴
Millennials long for enriching experiences. They are very critical and most of the time hard to impress.¹
Depending on Technology
Every fifth Millennial is spending more than 5 hours a day on his or her smartphone on the internet. In short they depend on technology.⁵
Core Values Considering Brands
The survey on the Generation Y’s attitude towards advertising leads to valuable conclusions on the Gen Yers values and their expectations of brands. The findings show that Millennials want companies to be honest and consistent. Moreover Gen Yers prefer advertisements to be humorous and they are generally reflected on ads and their marketing tricks.¹ To sum it up, here is a short checklist to ensure that your Brand Identity is tailored for the Gen Y:
Bring humour into your designs with the concept of Designing for Playfulness. Learn more here.
Millennials are lazy!
Gen Yers usually take the shortest way to get what they need that’s probably why they are commonly considered lazy. Yet, especially regarding work quite the contrary is true. Millennials show a strong work and reward ethic. What sets them apart from other generations and leads to the false believe that Gen Yers world be lazy, is their approach. In a smart way they attain their objectives with the least possible effort.¹
Millennials are Good at Multitasking!
Even though Gen Yers are more likely to multitask particularly while online, they are not good multitaskers. In younger ages Millennials are actually less good at multitasking than adults. But they have another strategy called “telescoping”: Instead of attempting to process messages simultaneously Gen Yers are constantly switching back and forth between different activities. In some cases they also just try it out. In the end Millennials master the skills of telescoping, testing and deduction.¹
How to Build Brands That are Made for Millennials
Here are some tips to make your brand or product more appealing for Millennials:
- Give them instant satisfaction of their needs
- Support their individual empowerment and lifestyle
- Offer them Bite-sized information
- Consider the relevance of social proof
- Appreciate and fulfill their core values as best as you can
- Mobile first
How to Create Employer Brandings That are Made for Millennials
Don’t forget about your company culture since the Generation Y will represent most of the employees by 2025:¹
- Think about “reverse-mentorship” (seeking a younger person for his or her experience and thought)⁶, value their creativity, opinion and insights
- Ensure a flat hierarchy and see yourself as a mentor, not a manager
- Focus on individual and group accomplishments
- Give them a lot of freedom like flexible working hours and remote work
- Facilitate an atmosphere that allows them to be themselves at work, make it feel like leisure
As mentioned at the beginning I’m a Millennial myself, but am I also all of the things that I just pointed out? Certainly not — though there are a lot of matches and of course there are many more aspects that I couldn’t cover. More importantly characteristics of demographic groups describe an average. Each individual of your target group has made its own experiences, has its own character and therefore is its unique version of that average.
I’m curious about your experiences working or designing with and for Millennials. Tell me about your story — firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Playful Design—Design for pleasurable, playful and enjoyable experiences
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 Bergh, J., Behrer, M. (2016). How Cool Brands Stay Hot: Branding to Generations Y and Z (3rd ed.). London, Great Britain: Kogan Page
 Georg, F. (2019). Die Generation Y und ihre Work-Life-Balance. In: R. Bröckermann (Ed.). Praxisorientierte Personal- und Organisationsforschung (23rd volume, pp. 47–53). Augsburg, Germany: Rainer Hampp Verlag
 Roser, M. (2013). Economic Growth. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/economic-growth
 Mangelsdorf, M. (2014). Generation Y. 30 Minuten. Offenbach, Germany: GABAL Verlag GmbH
 DMI Digital Media Institute GmbH (2017). DMI Public & Private Screens 2016/2017. Retrieved from: https://www.dmi-org.com/downloads/Millenials und Smartphones.pdf
 Jordan, J., Sorell, M. (2019, October 3). Why Reverse Mentoring Works and How to Do It Right. Retrieved form: https://hbr.org/2019/10/why-reverse-mentoring-works-and-how-to-do-it-right